What does it take to be successful? That’s the one question that bugs everyone, rich or poor, happy or sad. Contrary to popular belief, the secret to everlasting success is super simple. It is deluding no doubt, but easy to comprehend and implement.

Have you been slogging too hard with little or nil results? Are you on the verge of giving up because you don’t know how to tackle your challenges? If you are among those who are always considered last for a promotion–despite working hard–then you know you’re doing something wrong. And that’s where the 80-20 rule comes into the picture.

Decoding the 80-20 Rule

Devised by Pareto, an Italian mathematician, the 80-20 rule is used to describe the ratio between actions and outcomes. Today, it has diverse applications, when it comes to goal lists, and management duties. Experts believe that this rule can be used to analyze problematic situations, as well as prioritize. While there are practical limits to this rule, it fits all kinds of situations.

What it means is that in any scenario, only 20% of actions is enough to eke out 80% results. For example, if you are a sales manager, roughly 20% of your dedicated, high-paying clients can provide up to 80% of your revenues. Similarly, your to-do list has a few difficult tasks (say 20%) that require most of your attention. So, focusing on those few tasks will get most of your work done (say 80%).

However, that doesn’t mean you should focus on only 20% of your staff at the cost of the remaining 80%. The primary goal is to be able to prioritize and work accordingly.

Here, in the following section, we have listed out five useful tips that will help you focus on the essential things in your life.

1. Meditation

Do you find it difficult to concentrate one task at a time? Are you too stressed out to complete your pending assignments? Well, let me tell you that the stress is all in your head and spend some moments in meditation will help you alleviate that.

Research has consistently proven that meditation has the power to alter your brain’s functioning, by reducing stress levels and helping in decision-making. A study found that regular meditation enhanced cognition and awareness, leading to better intellectual capacities including verbal reason, memory formation, and emotional intelligence (1).

The mere act of keeping the mind still for a few minutes while keeping out all kinds of interfering thoughts makes you aware of your bodily sensations, and when practiced on a regular basis, it sharpens your awareness, helping you stay grounded and productive in a fast-paced environment.

Meditation even enables you to balance your personal and professional lives so that you know when to toe the line and avoid stress. This is especially important for those people who tend to take their work home and vent their frustration on family members.

2. Get Out & About

There is something about being amid Mother Nature. Whether it’s hiking through off-beaten paths, cycling in the woods or just lounging by the pool, outdoor activities have been scientifically proven to improve concentration and boost focus.

Research has shown that being outdoors for a minimum of 5 hours a day helps boost memory formation, in addition to other cognitive benefits. Soaking the sun helps to eliminate fogginess and sharpens the mind, helping you think with clarity. According to a study, short spurts of exercises lasting 10-30 minutes can bring about a significant improvement in mental capacities and awareness (2).

In fact, a brisk walk can also have profound benefits on your productivity and general health. Famous authors have repeatedly outlined the importance of working out before undertaking any mental activity. If, at any time of the day, you want to still your mind, consider exercising for 10 minutes beforehand, and you’ll find yourself more zealous than ever to work for prolonged periods of time.

3. Eliminate Distractions

You sit down all determined at your desk to finish the task at hand only to find yourself browsing the internet for hours at a stretch? 8 hours later, you realize it’s time to leave and that none of the pending assignments have been completed. What happened? Was it the internet, or the boredom of flipping through those never-ending pages? Well, it could be anything; we’ll call it distractions.

If you find yourself concentrating on the music more than the work, then it’s time to switch it off. For serious tasks, consider switching off your phone as well. And allot a specific time of the day for checking your social media accounts. Speaking of distractions, it’s important to mention that a neat and tidy desk does wonders to your productivity and stress levels.

Research has shown that a de-cluttered work desk gives you that much-needed zeal to take up pending tasks and bring your A-game to work. A recent study has proven that a clean environment helps you exceed expectations at work and complete your projects in time (3).

In another social experiment conducted by the University of Minnesota, people were asked to answer questionnaires while sitting at clean and cluttered desks. Results showed that people with clean desks made wiser choices in the survey, as compared to their messier counterparts. The bottom line? Dust off your workbench to experience a remarkable rise in zeal.

4. Eat Right

You must have heard that saying: you are what you eat. Believe it or not, eating right can go a long way to get you that much-awaited promotion at work. The type and portion of foods you consume determines how active or how lazy you are (4).

For instance, having an excellent and substantial breakfast consisting of fruits, a mild dessert and a refreshing drink such as green tea immediately perks you up, while a large lunch makes you lethargic and groggy. Dieticians believe that skipping breakfast makes it difficult for you to focus and keeps you feeling tired all day. Ideally, dinner should be short and light, and you should stop eating just before you’re full. Also, limit your portion sizes and eat from smaller plates. That way you’ll be less likely to binge (5).

Having a protein-rich meal at night is a must if you are planning to burn the midnight oil. Also, have foods that are rich in Omega-3- fatty acids, such as salmon, and use healthy oils like avocado oil. Consider taking salads for dinner, and reserving a sugary dessert for breakfast. Foods that are high in fiber content such as breakfast cereals and oats keep your tummy full for hours, reducing your tendency to give into untimely sugar cravings.

To top it all, they also enhance the production of serotonin, the calming hormone that boosts your mood and motivates you to excel at your upcoming ventures.

5. Make To-Do Lists

No, making to-do lists is not the layman’s job. Every successful venture involves a considerable amount of planning. Being as creative as we are, our minds are always buzzing with ideas, theories, to-do’s and plans. As such, making lists helps you prioritize your duties and focus on things that matter the most. Setting specific times of the day for specific activities will not only help you make the most of your time but also keep you productive while reducing your stress levels in the process (6).

It’s advisable to write out your to-do’s the night before so that you wake up all prepared and aware of what all needs to be done. Figuring out things in the morning leads to unnecessary chaos and time waste.

Here’s the beginner’s bible to making to-do lists like a pro

Ending Note

So you see, the idea is easy to implement. You have to focus on those few things that make an impact in your life, both emotionally and mentally, and leave the rest to destiny.

Over time, you will find that you have more time to complete your high-valued activities.

Guide to Inspired Life